Australian Open – quarterfinals
(1)Novak Djokovic d. (5)David Ferrer 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-1 [2:44 h]
Ferrer is one of the toughest match-ups for Djokovic, not in the majors though. Their overall H2H is 7-5, but in Grand Slam events the Serb won in straight sets all their three meetings, every time having some troubles only in one set, this time it was the second one in which Ferrer led 5:4* after being broken at the beginning (ribreak in the 4th game) and 4:2 in the tie-break. The defending champion had a problem in the 2nd set with his left hamstring… So, no surprises in the first Slam of the year, just like during the last French Open and US Open, the four best players in the world advanced to the semifinals. The hierarchy is clearly established, four guys far away ahead, then three others (Ferrer, Tsonga, Berdych), then a group of guys between No. 8 and 20 where each one has a decent chance to beat the other. “I played a good game,” admitted last year’s semifinalist Ferrer. “I had my chance in the second set, in the tie-break maybe at 4-5. But when I lost the second set, he played better than me. I am happy with my game.” The Spaniard lost first official match of the year after winning eight in a row.
(4)Andy Murray d. (24)Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 [2:12 h]
The draw has been perfectly working in Murray’s favor since the second round: Roger-Vasselin instead of Malisse, Llodra instead of Bogomolov, Kukushkin instead of Monfils, Nishikori instead of Tsonga – arguably each time an easier opponent to beat than would have been. After three grueling rounds in succession, Nishikori hadn’t left too much fuel in his tank for a demanding physical battle under the dazzling Sun against a similar retriever to himself. There were plenty of ‘deuce’ games, many break points had been saved by the Japanese, yet Murray controlled the match throughout. Nishikori has been in a form of his life since Autumn ’11 but needs to avoid involving in difficult matches against inferior opponents (like in the 2nd round in Melbourne last week when he was 3-6, 1-6, *3:4 vs. Ebden) to compete with the best players at the crucial stages of the biggest tournaments. Murray goes to a fifth major semifinal in a row with high hopes; easy matches have already been finished for him because only the best players in the world are still in the tournament.
(2)Rafael Nadal d. (7)Tomas Berdych 6-7(5), 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-3 [4:16 h]
The first 75-minute set was stunning, especially at the end. Berdych leading 6:5* accelerated the pace which gave him a triple set point. First he missed a risky shot, then Nadal showed his exceptional defensive skills, responding a couple times on Berdych’s furious ground-strokes and finally passed the Czech with a subtle forehand. He clenched his fist in typical style for the first time and saved the third set point with a service winner. The fourth set point – Nadal’s forehand winner just after the return. It seemed that Berdych is boiled in the tie-break, Nadal led 5:3, but the Czech has been playing tie-breaks with enormous confidence in the last 12 months, and made two winners on Nadal’s serves to get the fifth set point. Nadal argued with Carlos Bernardes who refused to challenge the Berdych’s next to last stroke in the rally at 5 all. Berdych stayed cool in the meantime and fired an ace to clinch the set. The second set was even more interesting, Berdych trailed 2:5, *5:6 (30-40), set point saved with a serve-and-volley action, and 1:4 in the tie-break, but almost won the set, at set point for himself attacked the net and played two decent volleys missing the second one. He followed up with two unforced errors, Nadal broke his streak of four winning consecutive sets in tie-breaks and it was the beginning of the end for the 26-year-old man from Valašské Meziříč. In the 3rd set Nadal took control over the occurrences, initially he was 0:2* down, but broke back to “love”, established a safe 4:2 lead to catch the momentum. Berdych was trying to get back to the game in the 4th set, unfortunately for him there’s no better specialist of 4-hour matches than Nadal. The Spaniard as usual was more eager and snappy near the the 4-hour mark, in the 4th set he had break points in Berdych’s four service games, breaking him twice and sealed the 10th straight victory over the Czech on his first match point with a forehand return fifteen minutes before midnight. “The King of Clay” lost the quarterfinals in Melbourne in the last two editions, struggling physically during both defeats, this time it seems he’s fantastically prepared to the event, and I’m looking forward to his semifinal against the arch-rival Federer.
(3)Roger Federer d. (11)Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 [1:59 h]
The 1000th match # in Federer’s career was almost a copy of his previous major quarterfinal against Tsonga in New York. It’s tough to say that Federer’s opponents played poorly, simply the Swiss showed a sublime tennis from start to finish on both occasions. He raced to a 3:0 lead in the 1st set today which meant he extended his streak of straight winning games against Del Potro on Rod Laver Arena to 16 (!) – he beat him 6-3, 6-0, 6-0 in the quarterfinal three years ago. Del Potro managed to break back, but his hopes ended at 4 all (15-0) – since then it was all Federer. The Argentine had 67% of the 1st serve but Federer looked like a guy who could break opponent’s serve each time when he tried a little bit more. He finished a rather disappointing encounter with a backhand down the line on the first match point. The former No. 1 never reached a Grand Slam semifinal before, losing fewer games than this year! “I’m moving well. I’m serving well. I’m hitting the ball clean. Today, I thought it was a very hot day with fast conditions. From now on basically it’s only night sessions, so it’s going to change now. It’s going to be more athletic and tougher. I’m ready for that.” stated the self-confident Swiss.
# Eight players to participate in 1000 matches (singles) in the Open era:
1. Jimmy Connors – 1,519
2. Ivan Lendl – 1,310
3. Guillermo Vilas – 1,207
4. Andre Agassi – 1,144
5. Stefan Edberg – 1,076
6. John McEnroe – 1,073
7. Ilie Nastase – 1,044
8. Roger Federer – 1,000
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